The Chicago Bears are getting one of the most complete teams in the NFL coming out of their bye week, as they host the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, October 20. Even without perennial pro bowl quarterback Drew Brees, the Saints have been chugging along with back-up QB Teddy Bridgewater leading them to four straight wins. During the streak Bridgewater has thrown 7 touchdowns to only 2 interceptions, while competing 69.4% of his passes, but it's been their talented defense that has picked up the slack the last three weeks. Against the Dallas Cowboys, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Saints have only allowed an average of 245 yards per game.
For a little perspective, the New England Patriots currently lead the league in total yards allowed at 234.7, so the Saints are playing at a very high level right now. And when you factor in how good their defense has been vs. how bad the Bears offense has been (30th at just 266 yards per game), this is clearly a bad match-up for Chicago.
Then again, the bye has come at a perfect time for head coach Matt Nagy to self scout and get his team back on track. The biggest move from the team was putting starting right guard Kyle Long on injured reserve. Long played in the London game after missing the previous week with a hip injury, but he hasn't been the same player at any point this season. My guess is the IR stint is a favor to him for his years of service to the team, because his body has broken down to the point where he can no longer play. Taking his place will be a three way battle this week between veteran Ted Larsen, converted defensive lineman Rashaad Coward, and undrafted free agent Alex Bars. My guess is the aggressive, but raw, Coward wins the job, but I wouldn’t be surprised either way.
But the failings on their offensive line isn’t all about the right guard spot, because Pro Bowl left tackle Charles Leno Jr. is the most penalized player in the league right now. He’s capable of playing better, and he vowed to use the bye week to get his game back on track. Right tackle Bobby Massie, who has been solid in the past, has arguably been their best starter so far, partly because the position swap between James Daniels (now at center) and Cody Whitehair (now at left guard) is going through some growing pains.
The bye week is the perfect time to get things sorted out up front for the Bears and to get their sputtering running game going, but this week it’ll be all about slowing down the New Orleans’ pass rush. The Bears offensive line will be tasked with keeping Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan (6 sacks) in check, but they also need to be cognizant of defensive end Marcus Davenport, who is coming into his own in his second season with 3 sacks.
On the flip side, the Bears counter with All Pro Khalil Mack (4.5 sacks) and Leonard Floyd (2 sacks) off the edge, but the Saints have one of the best offensive tackle duos in the game today with Terron Armstead (LT) only surrendering one sack this year, and Ryan Ramczyk (RT) not giving up any.
The Saints are susceptible to pass rushes up the middle and even though the Bears will be without Akiem Hicks, they still have defensive linemen Roy Robertson-Harris (2.5 sacks) and Nick Williams (4 sacks) on the interior. The Bears will need to get home without blitzing because Bridgewater has been money against the blitz this season with a 128.7 passer rating against five or more pass rushers.
The Bears have the defense to slow New Orleans’ offense, and the Saints have enough defensively to keep Chicago’s offense stuck in neutral. But the key for each team is going to be harassing the quarterback, and if the Bears get the fleet footed Mitchell Trubisky back for this game he should give the Bears the boost they need to get the win.
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